Historic Thomas James Store opens to the public

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on May 15, 2013 - 03:11 PM

Photo: The historic Thomas James Store in Mathews will open for visitors this weekend during the Tour de Chesapeake.

The historic Thomas James Store in Mathews will open for visitors this weekend during the Tour de Chesapeake.

Photo: Mathews County Historical Society President Reed Lawson, center, is shown in the store with past presidents Stuart Allen, left, and Doug Wilton.

Mathews County Historical Society President Reed Lawson, center, is shown in the store with past presidents Stuart Allen, left, and Doug Wilton.

The historic Thomas James Store in downtown Mathews has been undergoing a bit of a facelift and is now ready to be opened to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday during the Tour de Chesapeake.

Graham Hood of Mathews, who coordinated the project for the Mathews County Historical Society, said that to prepare the building for public display, a new brick pillar was built to replace one that was crumbling in the 1820 central structure, and the sills were reinforced to keep them from spreading apart and leaving the floor joists unsupported.

In the circa 1900 east and west wings, new concrete floors were poured, new siding was installed to replace rotten wood, and handicapped accessible ramps were built.

Henry Schlenk, the Mathews contractor who first recognized the historical value of the store, made a period-style door for the west wall of the building and built steps for access from the wings to the main part of the building, said Hood, and authentic hinges were fabricated of iron to replace two that had completely rusted.

Finally, track lighting was installed, and attractively lighted displays now provide information about the history and architecture of the store as well as information about such stores in general.